Today I saw my therapist at a brewery, but I didn't say hello to her. I just adore my therapist. She is funny and empathetic and kind. Although as far as therapists go, I'm not sure if she's really very good. She talks about herself a lot and tells me stories about ex-boyfriends, her relationship with her parents, and her dreams. Is that allowed? For me, I've found that I really like this style of therapy. It makes me trust her more, and it makes me feel like I'm talking to a friend (whom I just happen to pay at the end of the hour). So why didn't I say hi? Because she's also the therapist for all of the people I happened to be drinking beer with.
My friends have a long history of sharing therapists. One friend calls them Emotional Sherpas. It wouldn't be weird if you were going to climb Everest and you asked a friend if they had a Sherpa they recommended. But of course there's a lot more secrecy when it comes to therapists.
When you share a therapist with your friends, you sometimes have to rephrase certain things in your session. You can say, "I'm having trouble with my friend Linda." You can't say, "I'm having trouble with my batshit crazy friend Linda, you know the one who was just in here sobbing about her stupid, lazy boyfriend. I bet you're sick of hearing about him, too, huh?"
While we've gotten pretty good at this dance, we've never actually put her in the position to acknowledge all of us at the same time. In addition to the doctor/patient confidentiality she has to consider, there's the issue of the actual conversation. What exactly does any therapist say after hello? She obviously can't say, "How are you?" lest someone burst into tears and turn it into an impromptu therapy session.
This is a real concern with me and the eight other people I know who are her patients. We are emotional people, and someone is always on the verge of tears. A lovely summer afternoon on the patio might as well be a powder keg.
It's a tricky situation for everyone, and one that I might have to talk about during my next therapy session. One thing is for sure, if you need a recommendation for a great therapist, feel free to give me — or any of my friends — a call.
Liz Marsh's "Under the Influence" appears twice a month in the Colorado Daily. Read more: coloradodaily.com/columnists.